The creativity: “I had a whole imaginary world”
“My music could be a substitute for a drug,” Elliott said in 2001, explaining Miss E… So Addictive’s punning title. “For me, it’s like once you play this CD once, you’re going to have to keep playing it again and again. And that’s what becomes so addictive: my music.”
One of the most influential female musicians in history, Missy Elliott grew up as an only child, in difficult home circumstances of abuse and poverty. Her imagination, and her idols, were her means of escape. She wrote to Janet Jackson and Diana Ross; she sang in her room, to an audience of her dolls. “It goes back to being the only child,” she said in 2014. “I didn’t have brothers and sisters to play with so I created a world of my own. Everyone had imaginary friends, I had a whole imaginary world. I would be in no place that was on map.”
Elliott’s fertile inner world and her comfort with solitude allowed ideas to seed and grow away from convention. Her lyrics are unexpected, her imagery striking. “I’ve always had an imagination and I listen to a lot of different writers,” she said back in 1999. “If you listen to my songs, they tell stories. I don’t write in song form; I write almost as if I’m in conversation with somebody.”
The influences: “I go back and listen to older music”
Missy Elliott has said that, when she begins work on a new album, “I never listen to what’s out. I go back and listen to older music.” Get Ur Freak On, the lead single and unstoppable catchy force behind Miss E… So Addictive, is an example of how Elliott took her influences from older and non-Western musical sources. Using the traditional Indian instruments tabla and tumbi, Get Ur Freak On combines deep bhangra with hip-hop, bleeding the two into a stunning groove. Elliott also uses Japanese elements on the track, and brings in a sample from new-age German artist Karunesh (appropriately enough, the sampled track is from an album titled Global Spirit).
Elliott’s openness to other cultures on Miss E… So Addictive was something important that she felt others should know before working with her. She reportedly took the director of the Get Ur Freak On video, Dave Meyers, out to see the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before they began shooting. “Most artists didn’t take the time to vibe with me prior to a video, so I was swept away by her creative courtship,” Meyers said. “Sensing and understanding her ideology, I felt like, if I don’t go far enough, she’s not gonna like it.”